Between 2015 and 2017 the Berry community had to endure two very lengthy and painful campaigns objecting to applications for tourist accommodation developments. In each case, Council was taken to the Land & Environment Court by the applicants and it became clear that there were loopholes in the planning legislation.
At the Forum meeting in August 2016, attended by Clrs Amanda Findley, Andrew Guile and John Wells, we reported that Committee representatives had met with Planning Minister Rob Stokes and Gareth Ward to discuss concerns about uncontrolled development of tourist accommodation in rural and environmental zones. The Minister recognized the potential statewide implications, and instructed the Department of Planning to investigate how the loopholes could be closed.
In October 2017, we reported that a meeting had been held with new Planning Minister Anthony Roberts and Gareth Ward to again lobby for the planning loopholes to be closed. Further meetings took place during 2018 to discuss the solutions we had developed and in October the Minister instructed the Department to commence work on amendments to the statewide legislation. However, in November Department officials advised that they would first conduct a survey of all councils across NSW to assess whether the impact of the loopholes was statewide or local, effectively putting any action on hold until after the election.
Locally, Council had also previously agreed to review its tourist accommodation planning provisions, and at the Development Committee meeting on 5 March, resolved to commence the review in the near future . We had provided the meeting with a summary of the key planning inconsistencies and solutions that would close the loopholes in the Shoalhaven LEP (see above).
At the meeting, our proposals were strongly supported by Clr Andrew Guile and other councilors. However, one councillor was concerned about staff undertaking the ‘Department’s work’ and another expressed concerns about restrictions on tourist development. Clr Guile responded, explaining why the concerns were groundless. A compromise recommendation was agreed, which included consideration of the Forum Committee’s proposals. This important subject will be discussed at the next Forum meeting.